Monday, February 28, 2011

Making a Phone Call for No Legitimate Purpose Can Get You Arrested.


Chris Charvella granted permission to start attending county legislature meetings again.
Posted by Howard Owens on February 28, 2011 - 6:11pm
Charvella can start attending Genesee County Legislature meetings again.

Town of Batavia Justice Mike Cleveland today adjusted the order of protection barring him from showing up at the place of business of Legislator Jay Grasso.

Grasso has accused Charvella of harassing him for leaving a message on his home phone that said, "Thanks for reading my blog."

Charvella is charged with harassment, 2nd. Under the statute, he is accused of making a phone call with no legitimate purpose.
You better think twice about calling your local representative because the phone police will be knocking on your door.  While you may think your call had a purpose, that representative has the power to decide that it doesn't and get the law after you.  Kind of scary isn't it?  Not only that, but you can then be dragged through the court system for almost a year. 
Along with attorney E. Robert Fussell, Charvella, a Democratic committee member, appeared in Town of Batavia Court today for a status hearing.
Fussell indicated he is preparing motions to challenge the constitutionality of the charge, but the only request today was to change the order of protection issued in Town of Le Roy Court when Charvella was first arrested. The order prohibits Charvella from having any contact with Grasso.
"It's certainly has been my practice to attend meetings of the legislature," said Charvella, who ran for a seat on the county board in 2009. "That's a practice I would like to continue.
Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini object to the change in the order, saying that Charvella was offered a plea deal that would have altered the court order and given Charvella a conditional discharge of the case. Since Charvella turned down that offer and the case may go to trial, Cianfrini said, Charvella should be kept away in all circumstances from Grasso, since Grasso is both the alleged vicitm and a potential witness in any trial.
Grasso, a Republican, is Le Roy's elected representative on the legislature.
Outside of court, Fussell wouldn't confirm that he and his client intend to take the case to trial. He would only say, "I'm preparing motions." He said the motions would be based on constitutional issues.
During the hearing today, Fussell gave some indication of what those arguments will be, telling Cleveland, "If a politician doesn't like what a constituent has to say, it would be very, very chilling (to block meeting attendance). He (Charvella) should be allowed to attend these things."
Those motions must be filed by April 15 and Charvella's next court appearance was set for 4:30 p.m., May 23.
I've no doubt that Mr. Grasso and his attorney were sure that Chris would accept a plea deal in order to discharge this case.  Why should he?  There is a principle involved here, and yes, there are constitutional issues to be addressed.  I also think that Chris should face his accuser in court.  Isn't that what our judicial system is all about?  A plea deal, puleeze!

I'm glad that Chris can attend the legislator meetings.  He, as a citizen, has every right to observe and listen to what they have to say.  I hope that he also has the right to address them, if he wishes.

If you have a comment that you want brought to the attention of your elected officials, beware.  One might just decide that your comment doesn't fit the 'legitimate purpose' test and you may find yourself answering the door to a law enforcement agent. 

Mr. Fussell found the right word, "chilling".  It is chilling to think that one has to think twice before making that call.  It is "chilling" to think what the consequences might be.